Fine roots of overstory Norway spruce (Picea abies):

I. Catalin Petritan, B. von Lupke, A. M. Petritan


The horizontal and vertical distribution of live fine roots (diameter < 2 mm) of overstory Norway spruce [Picea abies (L.) Karst.] and their influence on diameter and height growth of underplanted beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirb.] Franco) saplings were studied on experimental plots in the Solling Mountains (Germany). The aims of this study were to investigate how overstory fine root density varies with stand density, and how it influences growth of the underplanted saplings to changes in belowground resources availability in connection with simultaneously changing light availability. Most fine roots were concentrated in the humus layer (more than 45%) and in the top mineral soil (0-5 cm, about 15%). Fine root biomass increases with overstory basal area and decreases with rising distance from the nearest overstory tree, reaching about zero within ca. 8 m distance. Over the whole two-year study period, light availability alone was the decisive factor for growth of the beech saplings (5 resp. 6 years of age) while growth of the Douglas-fir saplings in the first study year (6 years of age) was additionally affected by a shortage of belowground resources due to root competition in a season with less than average rainfall. This species-specific response of underplanted saplings to changes in above and belowground resources is of silvicultural importance for the establishment of a mixed stand beneath a mature canopy: the more sensitive Douglasfir should be planted on the central parts of openings with little or none belowground competition while the less sensitive beech can be placed below the denser parts of the overstory.


forest conversion; fine roots; above- and belowground competition; juvenile growth; shade tolerance.

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/20112003-11136